Which Massachusetts Delegates Sat Out the Netanyahu Speech in Congress?

Many Massachusetts delegates skipped the Israeli prime minister's controversial address.

Benjamin Netanyahu, John Boehner, Orrin Hatch

Associated Press

The decision to attend Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress has become a controversial one among Democrats. Three Massachusetts delegates decided to sit the speech out while eight delegates attended.

Democrats complained when Speaker of the House John Boehner first invited the Israeli Prime Minister to address Congress without consulting President Obama, who typically deals with foreign leaders. They argued that the move undercut Obama’s authority during peace negotiations with Iran over the acquisitions of nuclear weapons. Others said it had political implications just two weeks before Netanyahu faced reelection in his own country.

So, as Netanyahu spoke, he did so without Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Katherine Clark, of Melrose, or Rep. Jim McGovern, of Worcester, there to listen. In a statement, Warren reiterated her support for Israel but raised the standard complaints about the speech:

It’s unfortunate that Speaker Boehner’s actions on the eve of a national election in Israel have made Tuesday’s event more political and less helpful for addressing the critical issue of nuclear nonproliferation and the safety of our most important ally in the Middle East.

Clark and McGovern listed similar issues. Clark’s statement said:

I will continue my full-throated support for Israel, but I will not be part of Speaker Boehner’s attempt to divide our Congress and country over one of our strongest allies

McGovern said:

For Speaker Boehner to use our relationship with Israel to score partisan political points is wrong.  And for him to purposefully exclude the Obama Administration from the invitation is a serious breach of protocol and of common sense

Those attending the speech from Massachusetts were the other eight delegates: Sen. Ed Markey, Rep. Michael Capuano, Rep. Bill Keating, Rep. Joseph Kennedy, Rep. Stephen Lynch, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Richard Neal, and Rep. Niki Tsongas.

Also watching from the gallery, by the way, was Patriots owner Bob Kraft. There he is sitting near Elie Wiesel and behind Netanyahu’s wife.

Even among those attending, though, there were divisions among senators and representatives who stood to applaud Netanyahu throughout the speech, and those who remained seated. Whether they attended or not, Democrats were pretty united in stressing that their irritation was with Boehner’s invitation, not the state of Israel. Still, it was an interesting visual display of political division over anything to do with Israel.